AUSTIN, Texas — Former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti still can't believe how big the Texas players looked when they walked onto the field for the 2000 Holiday Bowl.
Big Longhorns tackle Leonard Davis checked in at 360 pounds. Little Oregon defensive end Saul Patu was about 250.
WHEN, WHERE: Dec. 30, 3:45 p.m., at San Antonio.
BREAKING DOWN THE MATCHUP
Texas 56, New Mexico State 7
BYU 40, Texas 21
Ole Miss 44, Texas 23
Texas 31, Kansas State 21
Texas 31, Iowa State 30
Texas 36, Oklahoma 20
Texas 30, TCU 7
Texas 35, Kansas 13
Texas 47, West Virginia 40, OT
Oklahoma State 38, Texas 13
Texas 41, Texas Tech 16
Baylor 30, Texas 10
Oregon 66, Nicholls State 3
Oregon 59, Virginia 10
Oregon 59, Tennessee 14
Oregon 55, Cal 16
Oregon 57, Colorado 16
Oregon 45, Washington 24
Oregon 62, Washington State 24
Oregon 42, UCLA 14
Stanford 26, Oregon 20
Oregon 44, Utah 21
Arizona 42, Oregon 16
Oregon 36, Oregon State 35
(National rankings in parentheses)
Total offense: Oregon (2nd), Texas (54th).
Rushing offense: Oregon (2nd), Texas (36th)
Passing offense: Oregon (20th), Texas (71st)
Scoring offense: Oregon (3rd), Texas (55th)
Total defense: Oregon (47th), Texas (62nd)
Rushing defense: Oregon (66th), Texas (80th)
Scoring defense: Oregon (25th), Texas (56th)
"When the Texas team walked on the field," Bellotti said Monday, "I swear the field tilted because they were so much bigger than we were."
Oregon was the up-and-coming program then and just getting comfortable with its heady top-10 status. The Ducks stood tall and knocked off the 12th-ranked Longhorns, 35-30. Looking back now, that game turned out to be the launch pad for what became the neon Nike-loving bunch college football fans know today.
Texas (8-4) won't face an excited underdog this time around at the Alamo Bowl. Oregon (10-2) is now a top-25 regular. The 10th-ranked Ducks are the ones sporting the nation's third-best scoring offense. And they're the ones wanting to inflict some damage, having been snubbed by the BCS.
Bellotti, who guided Oregon from 1995 to 2008, said Ducks fans are understandably disappointed after going to four straight BCS bowls. But Bellotti once got some advice from Texas coach Mack Brown that both fan bases should heed.
"Mack told me this one time: You better be the most excited team to be there," Bellotti said. "When you are facing a top-10 team, it's no problem. When you are playing another team at another site and your team isn't excited, watch out."
Back in 2000, few fans outside of the Pacific Northwest knew much about the program in Eugene. The Ducks regularly posted winning seasons and had even reached the 1996 Cotton Bowl. They came into the Holiday Bowl against the Longhorns with a 9-2 record.
"It was the country's first real chance to see us," former Ducks quarterback Joey Harrington said Monday. "There was definitely a David-and-Goliath theme to that game."
Harrington became the third player in Holiday Bowl history to throw for a touchdown, run for another and catch a touchdown pass. Oregon's defense stood tall and allowed only 88 total yards in the second half.
Oregon cornerback Rashad Bauman stopped the Longhorns late when he intercepted Chris Simms' pass at the Ducks' 16-yard line with just over one minute remaining.
After that victory, everything changed for the program known locally as UO. The Ducks felt Harrington was a Heisman Trophy candidate going into the 2001 season, so school officials put up a massive billboard in New York's Times Square. It was a headline-grabbing gambit that worked to perfection. Suddenly, college football fans were agog at Oregon and its in-your-face attitude.
"Had we lost that game, people wouldn't have paid attention to us," Harrington said. "So the billboard would have come completely out of left field. Because of that game, we were on people's radar, so the billboard made sense."
The next season, Harrington became a Heisman finalist and the Ducks finished the year ranked second nationally. Oregon remained in the top 25 throughout the decade and played for the 2010 national title under then-coach Chip Kelly.
This season, Oregon was in the national title hunt until two November losses ended that quest. Those losses and a knee injury knocked quarterback Marcus Mariota from Heisman contention. Harrington said the December layoff will give Mariota plenty of time to get healthy.
"I think that Marcus is unlike anybody they've seen this year at quarterback," Harrington said. "(Baylor's) Bryce Petty was the class of the Big 12 at that position, but he can't run like Marcus can. That's going to add another dimension to try to stop him."